It’s a hangover from childhood that I find it so difficult to sleep in the daytime. The youngest of three children, I had the earliest bedtime in the family. Lying in bed on a summer’s evening with sunlight streaming in through the curtains, I felt about as likely to fly as to go to sleep.
Even now, I don’t like going to bed in the summer – though every time my soft memory-foam pillow yields beneath my head, I wonder why I still resist. But as the evenings draw in, I change my tune. As darkness falls earlier in the evening, I begin to feel a primeval urge to hibernate. And as I light the woodburning stove in the sitting room this evening, it occurs to me that bed would be a much better alternative to winter heating. We could just bundle up in the blankets and sleep till Spring. The accompanying lengthy fast would also ensure that our summer clothes would fit the following year. However, with a small daughter’s busy social calendar to accommodate, I’m hardly likely to pull this plan off. It’s hard enough getting her to school on time on winter mornings as it is.
However, all is not lost: I’m now onto a new excuse for winter lethargy. I’ve discovered that some of the world’s finest writers do (or did) their best work in bed. Former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo has even built a special bed specifically for his writing. (Ink stains on the sheets led to his day-time eviction from the marital bed.) His literary hero, Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island (as if anyone who’s ever been in the Beaufort needs to be told that), wrote books in his tropical bed in Samoa. Marcel Proust never left his bedroom when writing one of the last century’s most celebrated (and longest) novels (though as his was a sick-bed, this is an example I’m less keen to emulate). A cheerier role model can be found in Mark Twain. No wonder he always seemed so chirpy. Edith Wharton, Collette, James Joyce – the list goes on.
So this winter, I think I’ll be saving on my heating bills – and who knows, my new alternative approach might just fuel a masterpiece.
(This post was originally published in Hawkesbury Parish News, October 2010.)